Farming oysters and clams

Recently, I heard an absorbing edition of Louisiana Eats (food and culture maven Poppy Tooker’s radio show full of “edible content”)  about seafood, and specifically about oysters and clam production along the Gulf Coast of the U.S. Poppy visits a new “off-bottom” oyster farm that is producing bigger and cleaner oysters than ever before and talks to our pal Rusty Gaude, marine biologist and seafood extension agent who has been working on increasing varieties of clams and oysters for many years.  I wrote a short piece about the oyster project a while back and now with Poppy’s show, could actually visualize and understand what they are doing down there.

As for Rusty’s excellent work, I wrote a bit about it recently here.

I know Poppy knows a great deal about oysters as she and I (with funding from Kellogg for our market organization to make teaching videos) had interviewed innovative oystermen in Puget Sound among others, a few years back. The amount of time that she volunteered for ours and other projects confirms how committed Poppy is to improving the lot for Gulf Coast fishing families while also educating folks on the need for reducing the erosion that is likely to sink New Orleans within the next 75 or so years.

To me, the link to all of this is the market organization that first introduced Poppy and Rusty (and me) and allows all kinds of leaders in the community to ask for feedback or space to test out ideas: this is the type of work that farmers markets can curate and encourage even if they are not the main recipient of those new goods-after all, more regional sustainable goods available helps everyone.

Read about another innovative project to reduce the erosion using artificial reefs that encourage oysters to grow and protect the coast.

 

 

 

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Tyler Ortego’s Big Idea is fighting coastal erosion with oysters

1) Food and environment should be linked more often.
2) I think my region will become ground central for innovation on coastal reclamation.
The work along the Gulf Coast to deal with the loss of habitat because of climate change and natural resource depletion could very well become a beacon for other coastal communities. I can tell you that we are here (at the intersection of the busiest set of ports in the Western Hemisphere by the way) and we will remain here as long as we can to find ways to mitigate the loss of land and food.

Some time take a look at the wetlands map of the coast of North America and estimate how much undeveloped land remains in the South that can be the start of reclaiming food and place.
Tyler Ortego's Big Idea is fighting coastal erosion with oysters | NOLA.com.

Growing populations and development along the coasts increase the vulnerability of coastal ecosystems to sea level rise. Development can change the amount of sediment delivered to coastal areas, worsen erosion, and remove or damage wetlands. For example, coastal Louisiana lost 1,900 square miles of wetlands in recent decades due to human alterations of the Mississippi River’s sediment system and oil and water extraction that has caused land to sink. As a result of these changes, wetlands do not receive enough sediment to keep up with the rising seas and no longer function as natural buffers to flooding. Rising sea levels could also increase the salinity of ground water and push salt water further upstream. This salinity may make water undrinkable without desalination, and harms aquatic plants and animals that cannot tolerate increased salinity. In the mid-Atlantic region, sea level rise is making estuaries more salty, threatening aquatic plants and animals that are sensitive to salinity.

New reef rebuilt entirely to help save fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico

The Nature Conservancy is working to restore Half Moon Reef, an underwater oyster colony in the heart of Matagorda Bay, which is one of the most productive fisheries for blue crabs, oysters and shrimp in Texas.
The 45-acre Half Moon Reef will be the Conservancy’s first reef constructed from the ground up.

Oysters suffer too

In 2009, I went to Puget Sound to film sustainable oyster farming at Taylor Shellfish. Those short videos are to be found on the You Tube channel of marketumbrella.org. The company works with small oyster growers like the amazing Evan and John Adams of Sound Fresh Oysters who have varieties that they only bring to the Olympia Farmers Market.
Taylor also grows their own and encourage home growers with a waterfront oyster garden kit that they sell one day a month, to help people understand how oysters develop. (Go to the Go Fish chapter and look for the oyster videos.)
YouTube channel
I have never forgotten how the Taylors (and Oyster Bill!) build the future of their ecosystem with their techniques and can only hope that some of their innovation can rub off on my own oystermen of Southeastern Louisiana so we can save our dying oyster industry here.
However, the issues are constant, and one grave threat is explained in the article link. When will environmental destruction finally hit home for humans? What amount of food will we have to lose before we address it?

Acidification